The first time I published a book, it was a 140-pager titled Tailgate Church. My brother-in-law had given me a truck, and I decided to take the truck and the guitar, and drop the tailgate and “have church” — and see what random things might occur. Then I wrote the book.
The second time I published a book, it was called “The Little Green Beetle” and it was a children’s book I illustrated myself. What happened was, I was at a low point in my personal life and feeling completely burnt out, and I went on a family vacation. Lying on the pool deck at our campsite, this little green beetle tried to pass me. No matter where I moved my arm, he just kept going, just kept cruising. At the time, this tiny little creature inspired me to hang in there. After our trip, I wrote and recorded this bouncy little song about that beetle, then realized that I’d really written a poem. I laid it out in children’s book format, drew some really amateur (but seriously cute) pictures, and self-published.
The third time I wrote a book, it was a whole lot harder to do. “Quiet Me” is the story of a mother trying to parent a suicidally depressed son. Told with my son’s permission, this book describes my journey through that incredibly bad patch in his life. It was gut-wrenching to write — and people have said powerful to read — and when I published it, I really just wanted to get copies into my hand before the band I was leading at the time went on tour so I could sell them on the road. Although he hadn’t asked, I decided recently that this book had served its purpose. I didn’t want this to become my now adult son’s identity, nor to have him feel that I saw him that way, and so I have removed it from bookshelves for now. Of course, if you are going through similar struggles and feel the book could help, I would get a copy into your hands.
The last time I published a book, I had no intention of putting it up for public sale. A friend suggested I turn songs I had written into a book of poetry, and I decided this would make a great Christmas gift, so I did some formatting work, and “Song Poetry” was born. People seemed to like it, so it is now for sale on Amazon — and let me tell you, formatting a poetry eBook is not for the faint of heart!
This time, it’s different.
This time, I am being strategic.
Always before, when I put out a book, doing so was an offshoot of something else going on in my life. Now, though, I am working towards the long-term goal of writing novels for a living. This kind of ups the stakes. Fortunately, I’ve had a few publishing experiences, and I have met people who’ve had more experiences, and so, twenty days before my romantic suspense novella, “Smoke”, is set to be released, I have discovered a whole new set of book marketing sites, and an entirely new set of skills.
Smashwords. Bookbub. Canva. Lumen5. KDP Select. Lulu.
The list goes on. There are as many online retailers of e-books these days as there are resources for would-be authors, like myself. Today, for example, I finished formatting my novella, Smoke, for paperback distribution with Amazon on their publishing site KDP Select. Amazon provided me with an ISBN number, which I jotted into the copyright page I created last week. Then I uploaded my manuscript (reformatted twice so that the pagination would satisfy both them and myself), uploaded the cover picture I created on Canva a few months back, typed up a bio for the back cover, set a distribution price ($6.99 — it might be a novella, but it’s still 215 pages in length) and now, literally, all I have left to do is hit a button, and the paperback version of “Smoke” hits the publishing stratosphere.
Today I also finished formatting the eBook version of “Smoke” according to the Smashwords style guide. Smashwords, my friend Jonas Saul says, is the best. With 2 million copies of his books sold, I am going to take his word for it. Smashwords is the way to go because they publish and distribute to every retailer, but they pay me all in one place. Let me just say, though, when it came time to prepping my manuscript to their specs, there was a learning curve.
Practically the first thing I had to do for Smashwords was to clear the document of all existing formatting. Every time I indented a new paragraph. Every time I italicized. Every time I changed a font size. It all had to go. And then I had to reapply all those same inflections the Smashwords way. It took a while. It makes the idea of tackling the next novel, with its much larger word count, daunting. Sigh.
With “Smoke”, I’d done the bulk of this formatting before today. Today, though, I got to learn how to insert hyperlinks into an eBook so that those links will send my reader directly to links both inside and outside my story. When you buy my eBook, you can hit a link, and head straight to my website, or to this blog, for example.
I created a table of contents today, and I bookmarked chapter headings then hyperlinked those bookmarks to the aforementioned table of contents. Now, eBook readers can hit a hyperlink to a new chapter rather than scrolling through the entire story to find where they left off reading. In other words, today I dogearred the pages of my novel for all future readers. Then I tested the links to make sure they worked. What a kick, to hit a link called Chapter Twenty, and watch my pages zoom by. I was struck with the marvelous brain of the computer as I did this. For as many times as I have read an eBook, I’ve never asked myself before today, “How do they do that?”
Next, today, I logged into Smashwords to find out how to apply an ISBN to their books, only to learn that in Canada, we get ’em for free! So, I logged into a Government of Canada site and applied for my ISBN — which apparently can take up to ten days to arrive in my inbox — and registering myself and my book for an ISBN rather than simply letting Amazon do it for me made me feel the urge to tell you all, “Hey, I’m a big kid now!”
Linking my PayPal account with my Smashwords account did seem the logical conclusion to the day. And so, everything is set. All I am now waiting for is that little ISBN to arrive, and I can hit send. Then you can all buy, and read, and I can get to work on Honey on my Lips, which launches in July. Happiness is…
20 DAYS AND COUNTING UNTIL THE GLOBAL LAUNCH DATE OF “SMOKE”!